Christmas break

First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 10th December 2009

The festive period is a testing time for us golfers. It’s even more difficult than usual to justify spending five hours out of the house when some members of the family are preparing to fetch their laden stockings from the mantelpiece and others are wondering if it’s time to put the turkey in the oven… No… Even I don’t play golf on Christmas Day.

I’m actually really looking forward to a golf-free period between Christmas and New Year. During that time I’m going to attempt to forget golf even exists. I will endeavour to go into deep meditation in order to purge my mind of all thoughts of one-piece takeaways, potential new putting grips and my deep-rooted short-game concerns.

If I can reach this blissful state of ignorance for just a few days I reckon I’ll start the new season with a blank mental canvass to work on. I then plan to paint on that canvass a creditable representation of a mentally strong golfer with some sort of self-belief.

I admit, it will be tough to completely forget about golf and there will undoubtedly be obstacles to overcome –

1 – My dad. He and I haven’t had a conversation that hasn’t involved golf since 1996. I’ll have to be armed with all manner of scintillating topics to steer dialogue away from the subject – The Economy. No, that’ll inevitably lead us to discuss the viability of Donald Trump’s planned development on the Aberdeenshire coast; The Environment. No, that’ll start debate about sustainable golf courses; Other sport – always results in comparisons with golf; Family values at Christmas – bound to include mention of Tiger’s “transgressions;” Film. No – Caddyshack; TV – will lead us to check the listings to see when the PGA Tour kicks off in Hawaii…. Silence it is then.

2 – Presents. Somebody is bound to give me a golf-related present. From the more knowledgeable and considerate members of my family this might be – ProV1s, Ping ML leather gloves, hand-warmers or white wooden tees (2 1/8 inches). Thanks guys. From more distant relatives, it could be anything from a plastic score counter to a golf-themed toast rack. Thanks guys.

3 – My book. Golf Monthly’s Jezz Ellwood and I have written a book called “Great Golf Debates” (available in all bookshops). I’ll, generously, be giving the odd copy out to friends and relatives. It’s going to be quite tough to field questions about it without talking/thinking of golf.

4 – The Christmas Quaich – The annual Bisset golf tournament played over the Old Course on the 21st of December. Whoever wins this fabled contest has bragging rights throughout the festive season (and beyond). If I take the title for the fifth consecutive year, I’ll have to be unusually modest in victory.

Yes, I’m going to need to display supreme discipline and self-control to put golf out of my mind for an entire week. But, with the help of a few old friends – mulled wine, sherry and port – I reckon I can do it. Watch out for my first Alliance performance of 2010 when I’ll be displaying the mental strength of the Dalai Lama crossed with Manny Pacquiao.

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